Cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins said they had to serve as escorts to male sponsors during a 2013 trip to Costa Rica which made them feel "worthless and unprotected", according to a report by the New York Times.

The newspaper also reports that during the team's official cheerleader calendar shoot, women were reportedly told to remove their clothes in front of male sponsors even though the calendar didn't include nude photos.

Nine of the 34 women were then told they had to perform as escorts for male sponsors, which didn't involve sex, the New York Times reports.

"They weren't putting a gun to our heads, but it was mandatory for us to go," one of the cheerleaders told the New York Times. "We weren't asked, we were told. Other girls were devastated because we knew exactly what she was doing."

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"It's just not right to send cheerleaders out with strange men when some of the girls clearly don't want to go," one cheerleader who was there said. "But unfortunately, I feel like it won't change until something terrible happens, like a girl is assaulted in some way, or raped. I think teams will start paying attention to this only when it's too late."

In a statement, the Redskins said: "The Redskins' cheerleader program is one of the NFL's premier teams in participation, professionalism, and community service. Each Redskin cheerleader is contractually protected to ensure a safe and constructive environment. The work our cheerleaders do in our community, visiting our troops abroad, and supporting our team on the field is something the Redskins organisation and our fans take great pride in."